WASHINGTON, DC - It isn’t too often that progressives and conservatives are on the same page, but this appears to be the case. Just the News reports that both sides of the political spectrum have teamed up to call on Congress to mothball FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) legislation, at least as part of any kind of omnibus bill.
Far-left progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), former chair of the House Freedom Caucus joined forces in drafting a letter to Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Miss.), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) in opposition to reauthorizing the controversy provision. The letter was signed by over 50 legislators from both parties.
The legislators want FISA presented as a standalone bill ending warrantless surveillance under Section 702.
The provision, originally designed to target foreign assets, has been subverted by the intelligence community and used as a means to spy on American citizens.
“The intelligence community is attacking our Fourth Amendment privacy rights. Rogue actors continue to abuse FISA Section 702 to improperly spy on American citizens, and it is far past time for the practice to come to an end. The Fourth Amendment guarantees Americans a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the government should never be given the opportunity to skirt the supreme Law of the Land,” Biggs said in a statement.
“Reauthorization of this spying authority cannot be tied to a massive piece of ‘must pass” legislation like the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act]. This would be an affront to the American people–who have voiced their strong disapproval of Section 702–and the integrity of the legislative process. The Judiciary Committee is on the cusp of marking up a standalone FISA reform bill, and I urge my colleagues to support its reforms. I am thankful for Rep. Davidson and Rep. Lofgren’s leadership on this important issue,” Biggs continued.
“FISA was initially enacted in 1978 and sets out procedures for physical and electronic surveillance and collection of foreign intelligence information,” according to the Bureau of Justice Assistance. [emphasis added] However, the act has been expanded a number of times since the original legislation, according to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers.
Jayapal, one of the most far-left members of the House, said that the “privacy of Americans should be of the utmost importance to our government, and yet, we have seen too many examples of unchecked, warrantless surveillance of Americans.”
Jayapal emphasized that an overhaul of FISA is “necessary to protect Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights and their sensitive personal data. Section 702 reauthorization should be subject to strong scrutiny and debate and cannot be included in larger, must-pass legislation.” Jayapal called on her fellow lawmakers to “stop the government from warrantlessly spying on Americans.”
On the Senate side of Congress, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), vice chair of the same committee, introduced a bill this week to reform FISA; however, it would not require the FBI to obtain a search warrant before searching the National Security Agency’s database for Americans’ emails or phone records.
Earlier last month, a bipartisan group of legislators proposed the Government Surveillance Reform Act of 2023, which would require several reforms, including requiring the FBI to obtain warrants for the above records.
“The FBI wants Congress to reauthorize FISA 702 without requiring a warrant to spy on Americans,” wrote Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on X. “The FBI’s part of the problem. The FBI *is* the problem. Congress must pass the Government Surveillance Reform Act.”